Schalke edges Wolfsburg in Bundesliga battle of rising USMNT stars

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/players/1121556/" data-ylk="slk:Weston McKennie">Weston McKennie</a>, right, and Schalke got the best of <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/players/375439/" data-ylk="slk:John Brooks">John Brooks</a>, left, and Wolfsburg. (EFE)
Weston McKennie, right, and Schalke got the best of John Brooks, left, and Wolfsburg. (EFE)

A decent portion of the United States men’s national team player pool that plies its trade in Europe does so in the German Bundesliga.

On Sunday, two of them met as Weston McKennie’s FC Schalke 04 hosted John Brooks’ VFL Wolfsburg, with McKennie’s side winning 2-1 thanks in part to his assist on the game-winning goal.

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Schalke surged in the second half after a so-so first 45 minutes, with McKennie making dangerous runs on the ball from a central attacking position tucked just behind the striker.

His best moment came in the 78th minute, when he took possession near midfield and covered almost all the acreage between there and the 18-yard box before slipping a pass to Daniel Caligiuri, who cut back nicely to give Schalke all three points (via FOX Soccer):

Caligiuri put Schalke up with a penalty in the eighth minute, but Wolfsburg equalized in the 20th minute through Elvis Rexhbecaj’s first career Bundesliga goal:

But McKennie emblematized Schalke’s second-half surge with his play, including this run and cross that produced a fine save from Wolfsburg keeper Koen Casteels:

Brooks, for his part, played a clean game and committed only one foul, and even attempted a shot in the 89th minute as Wolfsburg desperately searched for the tying goal.

But the result belonged to McKennie and Schalke, who sit 12th through 18 rounds in Germany and just seven points above the relegation spots. The USMNT will hope to get performances like Sunday’s out of the 20-year-old, with his tough-minded tackling, his eye for goal, his rampaging runs and his general production out of an advanced midfield position.

Brooks is already arguably the best defender in the U.S. player pool, and the 25-year-old is in a fight for the Champions League spots with Wolfsburg, which is currently sixth but only three points back of the top four.

Sunday’s match marked the first of the year for both teams after the Bundesliga’s lengthy winter break.

Joey Gulino is the editor of Yahoo Soccer and moonlights as a writer. Follow him on Twitter at @JGulinoYahoo.

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